Transplant recipients pop in, say thanks

It is Operation Popcorn week in BC, a chance for those most grateful for the gift of life, transplant recipients, to give back and say thank you to the hospital staff who make second chances possible every single day.

Liver transplant recipient Matt Scaife and heart transplant recipient Bob Intengan went around Kelowna General Hospital Wednesday morning sharing stories, smiles, laughs, and festive tins of popcorn to hard working hospital staff.

“I’ve been doing Operation Popcorn as long as it has been around. For the first few years the nurses who knew me before my transplant would look closely at my eyes, happy to see they were no longer jaundiced. The hospital staff is always so happy to see the popcorn team, as we represent the new life for donors,” shares Kelowna Team Captain Matt Scaife.

All around BC the teams of transplant recipients are delivering festive tins of popcorn to staff in the intensive care units, emergency departments and operating rooms.

These healthcare professionals often only see the tragic side of organ donation as they support families of donors, dealing with the loss of a loved one.

So, a visit from the Operation Popcorn team allows the staff to see the people whose lives are saved through the organ donation process.

Bob Intengan received his heart transplant seven years ago and recounts vividly how it all went down and how grateful he is to all the emergency services personal and hospital staff involved in those crucial few days.

Intengan had a major heart attack in 1992, at that time doctors told him he would have to get a heart transplant in the future and eventually that inevitable day came.

In 2006, it was clear a transplant was necessary and the wait began.  He and his wife took the news from the doctors with a heavy heart and headed back to Kelowna from Vancouver on a Greyhound Bus only a few days later.

Half way home on the Coquihalla Highway the unexpected occurred, Intengan’s phone rang and they said, ‘we have your heart get off the bus!’ They did just that, in the middle of the highway and the bus pulled away.

Shortly after an RCMP cruiser pulled up and gave them a ride  to Hope, sharing to the Integan’s that the RCMP had apparently been stopping every greyhound bus along the way trying to find him in time.

Along the highway in Hope they switched vehicles to an ambulance who took them to Hope Regional Hospital. From there a medivac helicopter got them to downtown Vancouver, onto another ambulance until they finally reached St. Paul Hospital’s door.

Not at all what they were expecting to do that day, and much faster than anticipated, he only waited four days for his new heart after being put on the donor list.

Both Scaife and Integan shared that neither men know their donor’s name or family and it is best that way. Their new organ has to become theirs and no one else’s.

However, each of them has written special anonymous thank you letters to both donor families. Scaife’s is from somewhere in Saskatchewan and Integan’s from Los Angeles.

This year the BC Transplant’s Operation Popcorn teams will visit 27 hospitals throughout BC and one in the Yukon.

So far in 2013, 304 lifesaving transplants have been performed in BC.

Operation Popcorn 2013 Facts:

  • 28 hospitals visited (27 in BC, 1 in Yukon)
  • 97 tins delivered
  • 107 volunteers – recipients, living donors and donor families
  • 22 years Operation Popcorn has been saying thank you 

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